Dear Abby to CPAs: Mea culpa … sort of

Heart Remember the flap a while back with Dear Abby? The one in which she said enrolled agents "are the only tax specialists licensed to practice before the IRS," thus dissing CPAs completely?

CPAs made some righteous noise at the time, and with good reason. And now, Ms. Van Buren has responded. And I quote, from her May 25 column:

Dear Abby: Regarding your column of April 12, 2010, and the letter about the man who refuses to file tax returns, your answer was only partially correct. In addition to enrolled agents, tax returns are also prepared by other licensed professionals. Certified public accountants are regulated by the various states and do a great deal of tax preparation.

Some tax attorneys may prepare income tax returns. The failure to file a tax return could be a crime, in which case the individual would need a tax attorney to represent him in trying to avoid a jail sentence. Communications to tax attorneys may be covered by the attorney-client privilege.

In addition, there are practitioners who are qualified both as attorneys and as CPAs. While many enrolled agents may also be CPAs, or even attorneys, you should not have restricted your recommendation to enrolled agents only.
-- Sydney S. Traum, JD, CPA, Miami Beach, Fla.

Dear Sydney: My thanks to you and the countless other CPAs and attorneys who wrote to correct me. I apologize for the omission. After wading through the tidal wave of mail, I contacted the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) for clarification and was told:

"There are many outstanding tax practitioners who are attorneys or CPAs, some of whom are members of NAEA. We do not wish to imply in any way that they are less qualified or capable in the field of taxation. We just want to call attention to the profession of enrolled agents and let the public know that they are the only tax practitioners SPECIFICALLY licensed by the Department of the Treasury."

It's nice to know Dear Abby has acknowledged her mistake, but it would have been even nicer to see her balance her NAEA-heavy response with a statement from the AICPA -- and I personally know at least one CPA who feels the same. Lord knows she had plenty of such statements to choose from.

What do you think, CPAs? Are you satisfied with that response?


Bill Sheridan